Bongos, Orcs, Camping at Walmart: The Strange Hobbies of Judges

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on September 09, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Judges tend to be a staid sort. On the bench, they're meant to be sober, serious-minded, impartial. For the most part, their life outside the court reflects this. Justice Scalia, for example, goes wild by hunting. Ruth Bader Ginsburg parties down at the opera.

Then there are the judges who have hobbies that are truly out of the ordinary. Awesome, weird, awesomely weird, these jurists spend their off hours pretending to be goblins, playing air bongos, and more.

The Honorable Bongo Lady, Presiding

Fans of the Memphis Grizzlies will recognize Judge Malenda Meacham more for her air bongo skills than her jurisprudence. Meacham is a part-time judge in Hernando, Mississippi, but a full time Grizzlies fan -- and Gloria Estefan enthusiast.

Meacham has spent the past three seasons playing air bongo at the opening of Grizzlies games, miming along to the beats of Estefan's "Cogna." The performance has become something of a ritual -- Meacham even has a "Bongo Lady" jersey. The best part of her performance, besides her manic enthusiasm for air bongo, is watching her poor teenaged son recoil in terror and embarrassment, going so far as to put a paper bag over his head during Meacham's set.

Magistrate by Day, Orcus Lord of the Undead by Night

If Judge Meacham is master of the bongos, Idaho Magistrate Judge Clark Peterson is master of the 20-sided die. Peterson is a major fan of role-playing games. His main character is demon prince Orcus, Lord of the Undead. Not only does he play RPGs, he once published them, as founder of Necromancer Games.

Peterson's hobby got him some unwanted attention in 2013, however, when a local paper revealed that he'd been leaving hundreds of comments on online RPG message boards. Of course, the comments were all under his own name and posted during Peterson's work hours. The offer an interesting glimpse into the mind of a judge -- or at least of this judge. In one post, for example, Peterson laments that he's "been practicing my goblin voice in anticipation of tonight's game and I have to admit I suck. It's like a bad combo of Dr. Doofenschmirtz from Phineas and Ferb meets Yoda." Indeed.

Walmart Camping

While his colleagues are traveling the world or giving salsa lessons, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas likes to pursue one of the more peculiar SCOTUS hobbies. Thomas and his wife are avid R.V. campers, taking their motorhome on cross country trips. There's nothing too unusual there, the Thomas's trips are a world away from Scalia and Ginsburg's opera nights.

What sets Thomas apart is his favorite camping spot: the Walmart parking lot. According to Thomas's wife, Ginny, Walmart camping is one of the couple's favorite things to do. "You can get a little shopping in, see part of real America," she explains. So far, they've traveled more than half the country in their R.V., which means a lot of visits to our nation's many Walmart parking lots.

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